Budget process places pressure on city council

Vernon council held all-day budget sessions Wednesday and Thursday, and the final round goes today at 9 a.m.,

It’s been a gruelling couple of days as Vernon politicians map out a financial strategy for 2015.

Council held all-day budget sessions Wednesday and Thursday, and the final round goes today at 9 a.m., with public input being received at 10:30 a.m.

“I still have a lot of questions to ask but I want to do everything I can not to increase taxes,” said Coun. Dalvir Nahal.

However, that may prove challenging as the budget calls for a 3.7 per cent tax increase for 2015 — 1.8 per cent for general operations and 1.9 per cent for infrastructure.

“It’s very realistic that it stay where it is,” said Mayor Akbal Mund.

“We all know we need to fix infrastructure. We’re getting costs under control and it’s being well managed by staff.”

All departments, including the RCMP, have been instructed to keep expenditures within a cap of 1.8 per cent or less.

“The budget is set up based on what we expect regular operations to cost. It’s difficult to plan what a multiple murder costs,” said Supt. Reg Burgess, officer-in-charge of the local RCMP.

“The city is allowing RCMP reserves to grow to the point where a significant event can be covered.”

Public input on the draft 2015 budget has been received during all of the sessions, and on Wednesday, former councillor Barry Beardsell took to the microphone.

The retired accountant called for increased legal fees so the city can end the dispute with the Okanagan Equestrian Society and Kin Race Track can be used for other recreational activities.

“We need to go to court and get it resolved.”

Beardsell also slammed the concept of spending $131,000 for temporary traffic circles on 25th Street to see if they improve traffic flow.

“This is absolutely ridiculous,” he told council.

“Once you do that, there’s no turning back. There is no problem there.”

Council also heard from resident David Miller, who supports the direction of the city but says there  must be more focus on hiring volunteer firefighters.

“Hometown volunteers provide the best way forward,” he said.